Outside Sales: The Complete Guide for 2021

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Table of Contents

What is outside sales? How do you excel in the field? We’ll cover each topic and more in this comprehensive guide.

Outfit pressed and hair coiffed, it’s time to set out into the field to meet with prospective clients. Being the face of the product/service makes the role of an outside salesperson an important one. This face-to-face interaction is what sets outside sales apart from their inside selling counterparts.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll talk you through everything you need to know about the world that is Outside Sales.

Table of Contents

What is Outside Sales?
Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales
What Does an Outside Sales Rep Do?
Most Important Skills for Outside Sales Reps
Average Outside Sales Rep Salaries
How to Hire Top Performing Outside Sales Professionals
Outside Sales Interview Question
6-Step Guide to Building a Winning Outside Sales Strategy
Inside and Outside Sales Teams Can Work Together
Outside Sales Training Resources
The Ultimate Outside Sales Stack

What is Outside Sales?

Outside (or Field) Sales reps work outside a formal office and formal team environment. They travel to meet customers face-to-face, spending  the majority of their time meeting clients and prospects in person.

Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales

How does outside sales compare with inside sales? The ultimate objective is the same… to close the deal, of course. However, the way it is done between the two have some significant differences.

When looking at outside sales, you’re working autonomously most of the time. The area around you is your “office” – in that you meet with people all over the place – and you spend quite a bit of time driving around in your car.

With inside sales, you are more likely to be in a team environment in an office setting working set hours, depending on the industry you are in. You will likely make many more contacts with prospects in customers in a day since you are not spending any time driving around to an appointment.

A top performing sales strategy will include elements of both inside and outside sales.

What Does an Outside Sales Rep Do?

A day in the life of a sales rep can be broken up in the following ways:

Prospecting For Leads

According to a poll done by Hubspot.com, when salespeople were asked what they struggle with the most, 42% said it was prospecting.  It doesn’t matter how good you are at selling, if you have nobody to talk to, that skill won’t matter.

Field sales reps need to be able to easily grab and use a variety of demographic and customer data to prospect efficiently. With a tool like Lead Machine, reps can pull valuable data as it relates to a prospects income, credit capacity, age of home, houses square footage, whether they’re a renter or owner… and that’s just for starters.

Being able to harness accurate data means that reps are able to engage with the right prospects and avoid working poor leads.

Tools that you can use to aid in prospecting:

Build a targeted prospect list:

Search for emails:

Sales territory mapping

How many prospects live or operate a business in a given area? How close together are they? How many of them are near an existing customer that you could introduce yourself to in case your appointment cancels or ends sooner than you thought?

This is where sales territory mapping comes in.

As I mentioned before, spending too much time in your car zig-zagging across town all day will minimize the efficiency of the time you spend out in the field.

Knowing where to go, with minimal travel between engagements, is a great way to maximize your time and energy during that day.

Sales Territory Mapping Software. Territory Mapping

Customer mapping

Where are all your customers located? Is it a concentrated area or is it spread out all over the place? Where are they in relation to prospects you’d like to meet?

When you take the time to do this, it is a very enlightening thing. You may find out that you haven’t penetrated a desired market nearly as much as you would like to. Maybe you’ll see that you are into an area more than you would like to be and that there are more profitable markets to pursue.

Knowing your footprint from past deals and how it relates to where you would like to go is a vital part of managing your existing business as you seek to grow it.

With field sales software tools (such as SPOTIO), this process is automated. The whole premise of SPOTIO is to drop pins on properties located on a map so that you have a physical representation of a desired territory.

It’s much easier to actually see on a map exactly where a desired property is located rather than staring at unorganized data on a spreadsheet or even a handwritten list.

Having this level or organization at your fingertips is one of the main benefits of using field sales software.

Appointment setting

Okay, so you have the names. Now it’s time to set appointments with them. One of the most important skills a salesperson can invest time in would be what to say, whether it be in person or on the phone. I’m a firm believer in scripting. Why? Because using a well thought out script will eliminate a robotic, bumpy, and awkward presentation that lacks a connection to the prospect.

Here’s an example call script:

Call Script Graphic

Sales presentation

Data shows 75% of sales presentations leave prospects feeling like the salesperson just didn’t get it.

Obviously, this will have a negative impact on your chances of closing that deal. We want the prospect to not only feel that we “got it”, but that we are the answer to their situation. What are some things that can be done to make this a better part of your overall process?

The article referenced above gives some great tips.

Make sure the presentation comes after a thorough discovery

It’s self-defeating to make a pitch when you haven’t gotten the answers to all the pertinent questions in order to MAKE that pitch to begin with.

It’s possible that you are either the perfect answer to the problem the prospect has, or that you are the last solution they need to look at – this will be determined when you ask the right questions to determine if a presentation is even warranted.

Use case studies

Many presentations can be dry, so using real-life situations where you solved the same struggle(s) that the current prospect is facing will go a long way to build your credibility in the room.

The 60-second rule

Don’t dominate the conversation. In order to maximize your chances of closing the deal, it needs to be an interactive presentation. Never talk for more than 60 seconds without an interruption. Ask for questions, etc. Pull them in.

Use feedback loops

This is how you solve the 60-second rule. Asking “Does that make sense?” or “Are we on the same page?” will prompt responses that will keep the prospect engaged.

If you lose them, stop

When/if you feel like you’re starting to lose your prospect, there is nothing wrong with just stopping and mentioning that to them, backing up and seeing where you missed it and fixing that to move forward.

Keep it as short as possible

Getting off track will cost more sales than it will land. Stick to the points at hand. If you do anything other than present a solution to the problems that the prospect has, you’re going to lose them more often.

Clear and scheduled next steps

One-call closes are pretty old-school anymore. Most of the time, there are going to be next steps before you can close the deal. Make sure they are clearly defined, and most importantly SCHEDULED so that nothing is lost due to ambiguity here.

Lead management

How do you keep track of all the prospects that you have?

At any given time, your “sales funnel” can range from hundreds of leads to thousands. When someone says “call me in a month” or anything else that isn’t leading to a sale right now, how do you store them? What do you do to make sure you don’t forget to call that client again in a month?

There is a saying that “not all leads are created equal”, and it is very true. Due to the many categories that leads can fall into, it’s very important for a salesperson to organize his or her leads in a way so that you are spending your time appropriately with the right leads at the right time(s).

The process and method of lead management is what drives the success of a sales team. Capturing specific details about each prospect quickly and efficiently, and then being able to use this data to increase productivity and sales is the goal of SPOTIO’s lead management software.

Sales reporting, or as I like to call it, keeping score.

There are so many activities that salespeople engage in, and most of them are important. How do you know if you’re effective enough at what you do? What are the most important metrics to keep track of so that you can keep everything else in line?

Here are some of the most vital metrics you should be privy to:

  • Team performance in relation to your sales funnel
  • Data from custom statuses and fields based on KPIs
  • Team performance and best time and day to knock
  • Number of attempts it takes to establish contacts, get leads and make sales

Sales Dashboards provide real-time insights that identify exactly where each individual team member needs assistance in your sales process.
You will be able to spot train reps on the areas where they need the most assistance to be successful.

Most Important Skills for Outside Sales Reps

If you are thinking about Outside Sales as a career path, it’s probably a good idea to assess yourself and see if you possess the skills that employers are looking for. I’m certain that employers will debate heavily as to what the most important skills are, so this isn’t an all-inclusive list.

However, I doubt that many would doubt that any of the following skills would be very useful, if not vital. I know this sounds obvious, but this is a big one. Have you ever asked a salesperson a question on a product and they didn’t know the answer? Annoying, wasn’t it?

You must be a subject matter expert when it comes to whatever you are selling. You need to be able to answer any questions that come your way, and in a confident manner. If you aren’t confident in the answer you are giving, then your prospect may have a hard time being confident in you.

Do your research.

In other words, know who you are dealing with. When you make your approach and have those initial contacts, being able to talk about their company shows that you are a professional that is truly interested in their business.

It will also help you avoid making a contact with a prospect/company that is not a good fit.

Know your metrics.

It’s hard to ever know if you’re hitting an objective if you don’t know what it takes to get there.

Contact Rate: the number of decision makers (DM’s) a rep speaks with.

Lead Rate: the number of leads generated from conversations.

Close Rate: the number of closed-won opportunities from the number of leads.

Average Revenue per Sale: the average amount of revenue a rep generates for each sale made.

Rate of Follow-up Contact: number of opportunities with at least 1 follow-up activity recorded.

Be organized – all the way through.

The person that is planned spends less time doing unproductive activities and also has contingencies in place to make the unplanned situation productive anyway.

The first impression.

When someone opens a door you knock on, or a decision maker in a business takes a minute to shake your hand, you have a very short period to win another several minutes with that person.

Your smile, the handshake, what you say, how you say it; all these things have a major impact on whether you can hope to turn this prospect into a client.

Handling rejection.

You must have the ability to “shake it off”, don’t take it personally, and move on to the next one with the same smile on your face as before. If you’re down, the person interacting with you will sense that.

Know when to move on.

Any individual you meet with will fall into one of 3 categories:  they will right now, they will buy later, or they will never buy. Your job is to figure out which one they are and do it as soon as possible.

The sooner you can figure out what kind of person you are dealing with, the sooner you can either take them to the next step or move on to the next prospect.

Qualifying the prospect.

This is the process of asking very deep, meaningful questions to determine if you are able to meet the challenge(s) your prospect if facing, and how to do so.

Close the deal.

This is where you are putting all the information you gathered together and forming the solution to your prospect’s need(s) and asking for her business.     

Answering objections.

Most objections at the forefront aren’t the real objection, but a “smokescreen.” Being skilled at answering objections is vital to keeping a valid sale alive.

Average Outside Sales Salary

The range of salaries for outside sales is all over the board. If you look at it as more of a “big picture”, with all industries included, you will see a range of $31,000 to a little over $92,000.

That range includes salary, bonus, profit sharing, and commission. As you can imagine, the numbers will vary quite a bit from industry to industry.

The average life insurance agent makes $34,229 per year.  The average automobile salesperson makes $38,801.Pharmaceutical salespeople average just short of $70,000. Monster.com gives a list of sales jobs that are the highest paying… from Consulting Sales ($120k – $150k base salaries plus commissions to Digital Media Sales ($170k – $180k base salaries plus commissions), they list the higher end of this spectrum.

Some people have chosen their path in sales strictly because of the highest earnings potential. Others have gone with what they are passionate about and that drives them to be a top performer and blow past the average for his or her field.

How to Hire Top-Performing Outside Sales Professionals

Hiring Landscape Graphic
Plain and simple, hiring the right people is hard. And expensive. It costs as much as 1.5–2.0 times of the employee’s annual salary to replace them and takes an average of 4 months to hire their replacement.

This makes having a bulletproof hiring strategy absolutely essential. So, how do you go about finding, hiring, and retaining your ideal candidates?

The job description.  

Attracting top talent starts with writing a compelling job description that generates excitement for the role. You know you want to hire a superstar.

Start by asking yourself What skills that person should have, what his/her responsibilities should be, and what kind of experience and qualifications he or she will need to be successful.

1. Skills – what skills should your superstar possess?

When thinking about the skills your candidate should possess, consider the skills exemplified by top performers in your organization and prioritize them.

In general, successful sales professionals typically:

  • Thrive with minimal direction and are willing to work independently.
  • Possess strong communications and interpersonal skills.
  • Are very comfortable initiating and carrying out uncomfortable conversations.
  • Are natural team players.
  • Are detail oriented.

Consider these and other attributes you feel are important to success in the role and list them in priority order in your job description.

2. Experiences and Qualifications

While not necessary, the skills listed above are often aligned to those who hold a degree in marketing, business, communications, and/or have experience working in similar roles with customers.

Other relevant experiences and qualifications include familiarity with a CRM, ‘X’ amount of years’ experience, a proven track record of exceeding sales quotas, and industry-relevant certifications.

When listing experiences and qualifications, aim high. Those who desire the role, but don’t quite meet the listed qualifications will still apply if they’re a good fit for the role. But if you aim too low, you’ll rule out great candidates.

3. Responsibilities – what would this person be responsible for?

Responsibilities should be quite clear based on the role you’re hiring for. Some examples include:

  • Develop and build relationships with new and existing customers.
  • Maintain customer data related to leads, deals, and accounts within the company CRM.
  • Travel within the sales territory
  • Stay continuously informed on matters important to customer base including industry, competition, company strategy, products, and market conditions.
  • Collaborate with marketing and other teams to achieve greater success.

Try to avoid being ambiguous in how you describe responsibilities. Being clear ensures that candidates who apply are indeed interested in the role you’re looking to fill.

It sets you up for strong employee retention and helps ensure your staff is engaged.

If you’re worried that being specific might scare away a superstar, think of it like this: chances are that he or she wouldn’t have been a superstar with you.

Outside Sales Interview Questions

Okay, you have figured out the profile of who you want to hire. You have created an amazing job description that has gotten some dynamite applicants to contact you for an interview.

What kind of questions should you ask to sift through the pool of great candidates and find “the one”? If you focus on 3 main areas – personality, skills, and performance – you can do that very well.

Some examples might be:

1. Personality Questions   

  • What drives you to succeed?
  • What are you looking forward to in this role?
  • What would you like to achieve in the next 3-5 years?
  • In an ideal world, how would you collaborate with your team members?
  • How do you prefer to work with your sales manager?
  • What is your optimal sales environment?
  • How do you see yourself fitting with our company and this team?

2. Skills Questions

  • Would you rather call or email prospects?  Why?
  • How do you deal with rejection?
  • What is your closing percentage?
  • How do you get around the gatekeeper when you make a call on a prospect?
  • When do you decide to walk away from a prospect?
  • Does social media play a role in your sales process?  If so, how?
  • How do you stay up-to-date with industry trends? What specific resources do you reference?
  • What is your negotiation style?

3. Performance Questions

  • Tell me about a time when you were in a competition to win a prospect’s business that you ultimately won. What caused that to happen?
  • Tell me about a time when you were dealing with a very hard-to-convince prospect that you won over. How did you do that?
  • When you lose a deal, what is the most common reason why?
  • Tell me about a time that you didn’t hit your performance objective. What caused you to fail and what did you do to make sure it didn’t happen again?
  • Tell me about the achievement you are most proud of in your career thus far.
  • What is the length of your current sales cycle?
  • How often do you beat your quota?

6-Step Guide to Building a Winning Outside Sales Strategy

A company can’t be successful without an effective sales team. That’s why  recruiting and retaining strong players is critical to success.

Focus on the following six steps to ensure an effective staffing strategy.

1. Identify the team that you need.

An effective sales team structure allows you to build in the capacity needed to cover all territories and meet your organization’s goals. Consider the balance needed to ensure the right amount of resources are in the field, and that you have the right number of managers to coach, motivate and train sales reps.

The ideal ratio of salesperson to sales manager will depend on your own organization’s needs.

To determine what’s right for your organization, look at key data such as cost per sale and sales rep performance metrics.

2. Customize your recruiting process – and make it repeatable.

To ensure smart recruitment, start by identifying your recruitment goals, making sure that you’re clear on what you’re looking to get out of the process.

You will want to clearly outline your ideal candidate’s profile. What skills, background, and career goals do you expect them to have to ensure success?

Assuming you’ll typically be looking for the same kind of talent, invest heavily in writing a job description that attracts the right talent. You’ll be able to reuse the work when future openings arise.

Put thoughtful energy into identifying and planning the right interview process including how to make sure the right balance of perspectives are represented in the interview loop.

3. Make sure the sales managers are the right ones.

A strong outside sales manager has different characteristics than a strong inside sales manager. Using the same person is likely not a great option.

Besides ensuring you have the right technical skills on your management team, consider whether your sales managers are natural leaders and whether they can effectively delegate and train a staff.

4. Get with the times.

In other words, modernize your sales process and tools as much as you can. Many companies will cut corners here and cite costs as the reason.

This approach is narrow minded due to the costs on the back end. What productivity is lost when the salespeople are spending more time in the office doing things they shouldn’t have to do because their tools are out of date instead of being out there doing what they do best – selling?

Even more importantly, when you use lagging processes and technology, your sales team will quickly become unhappy resulting in retention issues.

Consider making your team’s work easier by using eye-catching and effective marketing consulting proposal templates. When using such templates, the sales team has access to visually stunning covers, pre-written sales service sections, and more.

5. Make sure that your Marketing department is aligned with your sales department.

Ensuring sales and marketing are aligned on strategy is one of the most important things you can do to drive productivity from your teams and boost job satisfaction. After-all, these two teams must work together to be successful. Invest time in how this engagement should work.

As a leader, ensure that alignment and partnership starts from the top so your teams see you leading a collaborative engagement and model the behavior.

6. Rewards – Create a multi-tiered incentive structure.
Research shows that a multi-tiered incentive plan will drive production.

To ensure your sales reps are bought into the rewards and incentives structure, invite them to help design and develop it.

Also ensure that the structure you develop is not only focused on top performers by building in ways to motivate average performers and reps who fall behind.

Inside and Outside Sales Teams Can Work Together

In my experience with an organization that uses both inside and outside sales teams, it has been an “us vs. them” mentality. And most of the time, that mentality starts from the top. If the executive team doesn’t respect and see the need to work together to be mutually beneficial, then it isn’t likely that the sales teams themselves will either.

So, it starts there; make sure the executive team is in alignment so they can model that behavior to their respective teams and spearhead efforts in working together.

Visibility is also a key.

The entire team needs to know what the other members of the team are doing. Communication plays a big role here. Are the marketing people actively developing leads in one of the field salesperson’s territory? He or she should know about it. Is that salesperson following up with those leads in a timely fashion? The marketing people should know about that.

There are systems in place that can help everyone see that, and with the proper accountability in place, this can make things very transparent to everyone involved.

Ultimately, utilizing this approach will end up causing your entire sales team to build a strong relationship among each other, just like they do, hopefully, with their prospects and clients.

Outside Sales Training Resources

Any true professional should continually be a student of their field; finding ways to get better at what she does. The sales profession is no different. Phone skills, general prospecting skills, fact-finding, closing technique, asking for referrals, marketing as a whole, client retention… these are all areas that a salesperson should continue to get better.

The following are some resources to help develop those skills:

Wilson Learning focuses offers resources and programs for sales, leadership and workforce development. For sales, they offer programs on foundational and strategic selling, along with consulting, sales management, and sales support and service.

Customer Centric Selling offers sales training through training workshops around the globe. Their focus is on a buyer-driven sales process.

Sales Performance International
uses online curriculum and technology to facilitate their training and development programs.

There are literally hundreds of other places to seek out sales training in any area, whether it be based on a certain part of the sales process, or even based on industry.

The Ultimate Outside Sales Stack

Every salesperson and every sales organization is interested in being more productive. There are many tools out there that will help make various parts of the job easier from mapping to CRMs, sales tracking and everything else.

Spotio has various software tracking tools that will keep tabs on all the different things that you would want to keep an eye on, such as mapping, prospecting, lead management, rep tracking, reporting, and appointment setting.


SPOTIO’s sales mapping software uses location data to create a visually represent a territory. Customer mapping software helps you get the most from your team’s valuable time, and helps reps increase sales by optimizing face-to-face relationship building opportunities. Learn more here.

Map Visualization


SPOTIO’s prospecting functionality allows sales leadership to streamline the sales prospecting process with CRM integrations. This allows sales reps to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time doing what they’re there to do: sell!

Features include easy field data entry, a quick way to view account history, and the ability to filter and organize leads. Learn more here.

Lead Management

SPOTIO’s lead management software makes field data entry easy, creating clear funnel visibility for sales managers as well as easy access to critical sales data. This allows users to easily determine the next best action while ensuring reps are working the right territory.

Additionally, lead management makes it easy to identify and take action on leads, whether the prospect is hot now, a future lead, or is one that would be better reassigned to another rep. Learn more here.

Rep/Sales Tracking

Rep tracking gives sales managers useful information in real time regarding rep location. This helps ensure sales rep accountability, gives insight into the status of a customer interaction and provides management with details that prove useful in managing and coaching sales teams. Learn more here.


SPOTIO provides sales reps and managers with the capability to create custom reports so you can track the data that will drive business results.

Features such as executive insights provide historical and real-time data that can help sales managers support their team as well as coach them for ongoing success. Learn more here.

Appointment Setting

SPOTIO’s calendar feature allows users to create appointments right in their sales productivity interface.

With the ability to integrate with Google calendar and Outlook calendar, the SPOTIO appointment setting functionality also integrates with other SPOTIO functionality for an integrated experience. Learn more here.


Outside sales is a very broad topic, and it’s impossible to cover everything in one article. However, the objective of this piece was to draw some attention to some key areas that will raise or lower the bottom line results in your organization and team.

From getting you sales team organized to equipping them with the tools to make them as pro productive as possible; all of these things require due diligence to ensure you are “stacking the deck” in your favor. Best of luck in your endeavors!


SPOTIO is the #1 field sales engagement and performance management software that will increase revenue, maximize profitability, and boost sales productivity.

Want to see a product demonstration? Click here to see how SPOTIO can take your sales game to the next level.